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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Voter ID Laws in Two States Made Toothless

WASHINGTON (CN) - As the Supreme Court kept Wisconsin from enforcing a voter ID law in the upcoming election that may discriminate against minorities, a federal judge threw out a similar law in Texas.

The Supreme Court granted its relief in a one-page order Thursday night that notes a dissent by the court's conservative justices.

A federal judge had previously enjoined the law for constitutional and Voting Rights Act violations, but the 7th Circuit threw out that relief on Sept. 12 because it said Wisconsin had changed its requirements to ensure better compliance.

The Supreme Court vacated that Sept. 12 order and it vacated the 7th Circuit's stay of the District Court's permanent injunction.

In a strong dissent to the 7th Circuit's refusal to rehear the case en banc last week, Judge Ann Claire Williams noted that the law would disenfranchise 300,000 voters in November.

The upcoming election did not sway all of the Supreme Court's justices, however, on the urgency for intervention.

"There is a colorable basis for the Court's decision due to the proximity of the upcoming general election," Justice Samuel Alito wrote, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. "It is par­ticularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted. But this court 'may not vacate a stay entered by a court of appeals unless that court clearly and "demonstrably" erred in its application of "accepted stand­ards."'"

The Supreme Court will now consider whether to grant a petition for certiorari, which determines the continued fate of the order.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down what would have been the nation's strictest voter ID law.

"The draconian voting requirements imposed by SB 14 will disproportionately impact low-income Texans because they are less likely to own or need one of the seven qualified IDs to navigate their lives," the 143-page ruling states.

Ramos had conducted a two-week trial on the matter last month, hearing evidence of "only two instances of in-person voter fraud among more than 62 million votes cast in all Texas elections during the preceding 14 years," Bloomberg reported.

Texas' history of discrimination meant that it had to get Justice Department approval for SB 14 under the Voting Rights Act. Texas submitted its request for SB 14 in July 2011.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder found the info in Texas' preclearance application incomplete twice in the fall of 2011 and requested further evidence of nondiscrimination.

Texas sued Holder in 2012 to have its law declared constitutional, just after Holder declined to preclear a South Carolina Voter ID law that was nearly identical to SB 14. When Holder ultimately denied SB 14 preclearance two months later, he said Texas officials failed to prove the law would not disenfranchise minority voters.

A three-judge panel in Washington described SB 14 as "the most stringent in the country" and ruled against Texas in August 2012, persuaded by the government's study showing black and Latino registered voters were almost twice as likely as white registered voters to not have photo ID.

Before the Supreme Court could consider Texas' appeal, it threw out the preclearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act with its ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.

This led the Supreme Court to vacate the panel's preclearance denial of SB 14, and the panel dismissed the case on remand.

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